From XU Magazine, 
Issue 18

Delivering live accounting with (almost) real-time data

Find out how Farnell Clarke is deepening client relationships using a new approach to client data…
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Alright – it is not real-time data, but it can be live.

Access to the right data can help clients make informed, timely decisions based on confidence-inspiring data. It can never quite be real-time, but data can be live. Every practice in the country has the same key CSFs. Filing accounts on time, getting them right and helping clients manage their tax position are common to everyone. But things have changed, we are now coming to a point where simply managing for compliance and tax position is not enough.

It is impossible to miss the new breed of disruptive entrepreneurial accountants. They are using re-engineered processes and new technology to provide cheap basic compliance. They run firms on one pitch, and one pitch only – that they can deliver premium services more effectively and for less money.

Some clients do not want that because they know the cheapest model offers the least, and it might not be sustainable. Those clients will value a relationship with a firm that allows them to sit down with someone for a face-to-face meeting, or to call and chat whenever they feel the need.

These are big incentives for us to update our offerings, deepen our relationships with clients and lay down foundations for a thriving practice over the coming years.

What does this mean in practice?

Accountancy is changing. Billing by the hour is no longer an option when the client can clearly see the compliance process is automated. So, we need to shift from compliance – which, while it will always be central to our work, will no longer earn the big fees – to advisory work.

We need to differentiate, we need something that enables us to be different, to help us guide client expectations away from time-based charging. And here is something I have discovered – when we start a meaningful conversation with our clients about what else we could do, they are universally receptive!

To be truly valuable, we need to become as familiar with client needs as long-ago accountants were.

We also need to use this familiarity alongside modern tech and processes, using Soldo to capture employees’ expense purchases; deploying invoice scanning and capture services; exploiting accounting and compliance software, and more.

With these foundations, we can provide fast and relevant information to our clients when they need it, and we know we have timely data of the right quality,
so we can anticipate client needs and provide valuable information to support their daily business decisions.

With the right relationship and live data, our clients would come to us first with every business question. We might not currently be able to deliver the answer every time, but with live accounting, good planning and great client relationships, this can happen!

How we do it

To do this, we need to address these areas:

  • We need to adopt a fully digital practice, using tech that facilitates not just live data production, but the fast customisation of reports,
    and that fosters a consistent supportive relationship with our clients
  • We need control of that data within the firm’s processes following a transparent and repeatable set process enables economies of scale, clarity
    of responsibilities, and the confidence that our data is of sufficient timeliness and quality to provide valuable insights to our clients
  • We need regular, consistent communication with our clients, built into the firm’s processes as part of our services from the start.

All three of these areas can be efficiently delivered to our clients by bringing bookkeeping in house. Combining the right tech, the right process, and the right people doing the right bit of the job at the right time will deliver deeper client relationships.

Our clients deserve daily bookkeeping services that result in live accounting. This allows our clients to have the data they need to make the right business decisions. And with us – the accountants – delivering bookkeeping in an efficient and cost-effective manner, we give clients time to invest in growing their business.

Benefits to the firm

From managing the data in firm (our staff average four minutes per day clearing transactions, and the automation itself saves the client bookkeeping fees) to providing value-added apps through select vendor tech and APIs, we can provide cheaper compliance along with value-added services.

Using smart automations, from data acquisition using Soldo and receipt capture tools all the way to final reporting, means more time for client relationship management and better demonstration of value. Also MTD, HMRC are building towards a regulatory environment that will effectively penalise practices that have minimal automation. For those practices, compliance reporting four or six times a year will be horrendously time-consuming. It is simple: fresher data means fewer penalties.

In summary

Our clients deserve daily bookkeeping. Why? Because they deserve a superb experience. We can deliver this service to each client profitably and effectively in as little as four minutes per day – as long as we pull together the right technology, underpinned by the right processes and team structure.

As a result, our clients get more time to deliver great experiences to their own clients. We, as firms, will find our clients love us more. And if you can deliver this in your firm, you will have a significant competitive advantage over any practice yet to effectively utilise automation for great client experiences.

Why leave it there?

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